Forty-Six — My Relationship with (some) Books is Complicated

All of a sudden, my library books were all done and gone and I had only the same books on the bedside table that I’ve kept there for years. What is it with the books I own, is it that they sit too long and I put other things on top of them, prioritize around them, neglect them and then when they are all that’s left, realize I hate them for the way I’ve treated them?

On this table I have three parenting books, four novels, and one book of poetry. I keep the poetry there because I love it and I might need to look at it at a moment’s notice. That’s how it is with poetry. It’s Lorna Crozier’s Everything Arrives at the Light and it’s been in my possession for almost twenty years and I love it dearly. I have read it many times.

I have read the parenting books too; How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk (BRILLIANT) and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family (DITTO) and More Speaking of Sex (FABULOUS).

But the novels. I just can’t seem to do it. Songdogs. The Book of Negroes. The Cellist of Sarajevo. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. All these books, acclaimed and loved, acquired on purpose. I bought two, borrowed one and was given the fourth. And I want to read them! But I don’t want to read them, or I would have read them by now. I have read the first few pages of each and then I put them down and reach for the latest library book and if, like the other night, I realize I have no library book, I read one of the parenting books again, or just go to sleep.

It’s not that they’re all depressing. I read depressing books all the time. It’s not a problem.

More and more, I find myself not re-reading old favourite books, not revisiting anything I’ve got on the shelf. I go to the library, I read new (or new to me) stuff, I take it back. Is it a switch to the culture of temporary? Resistance to what I “should” be reading? Am I a library addict? (I feel certain there are friends of mine who would scoff at such a label.) That is, in part, why I started writing down all the books I read this year, as well as a few paragraphs about each one. I didn’t want to forget, or let the books just slip out of my brain when I am done with them and they go back to the library.

These books sitting next to me while I sleep, waiting quietly for me to pick them up and love them, they exert too much pressure. Tonight I will put them away and if I don’t go looking for them within a year, I will give them away. Resentful books can’t exist in a happy home.

3 thoughts on “Forty-Six — My Relationship with (some) Books is Complicated

  1. Nicole

    I’m re-reading Alice Munro right now, so I feel you. Also, I have had A Heartbreaking Work of Incredible Genius on my to-read list since Christmas – I got it as a gift – and I can’t. I don’t know why.

  2. Arwen

    Are the books from the library more escapist in nature? I go through periods of lit-love and genre-love, myself. Sometimes, I’m mired and need a good plotty story where there are clear antagonists and protagonists and a good-ole’-win. Sometimes I have extra room for complexity of human experience and problematic protagonists and the horrors of Serajevo. Complexity of reading material tends to be inversely proportional to the complexity of my life…

Comments are closed.